Artist-turned-author Manohar Devadoss used to be fascinated by electric trains when he came to Madras at a young age. The 75-year-old, who grew up in Madurai in the 1940s, used Chennai’s electric trains as a starting point when he began drawing and painting. It was those trains that helped him figure out how to draw realistically — the reason why his pen and ink sketches are as accurate they are, he reveals.
“Those electric trains are how I learnt about the concept of vanishing point. All the carriages come together at one single point, no?” he asks, pointing at a rough sketch of a train. “That’s the vanishing point,” Manohar says with enthusiasm, giving this reporter a quick lesson on perspective.
Manohar talks about his road to becoming an artist in a largely cerebral way, the techniques he used to showcase perspectives in his drawings in his new book, From An Artist’s Perspective, published by Consortium Creatives. The artist, who has been gradually losing his vision since the 1970s due to an eye condition, comes forward with the knowledge of how he taught himself to draw in his seventh book, one that is vastly different from his earlier ones. “It is not a book about how to draw. But rather my idea of why things seem the way they are,” clarifies the artist cheerfully, squinting through his thick glasses.
The book is all about perspective — from drawing small trains to the geometry behind drawing giant spiral staircases to mathematical accuracy, and has in-depth knowledge about some of the most intricate drawings he has done over the years. “Understanding perspective is very important for any artist who wishes to draw with accuracy. If you were to recreate buildings and monuments, as I do in my other books, you need that knowledge,” states Manohar. The book is all the more relevant because Manohar is a self-taught artist. “I never went to art classes. All that I know about drawing, I learnt by myself, through trial and error,” he says.
Manohar now has less than 10 per cent vision in his eyes and cannot draw without the help of thick outlines that someone has to sketch out for him. “I cannot do the type of drawings I used to do, like the illustrations in my first book about Madurai. But I can still draw,” he says, showing us a sketch of a butterfly that is still in progress.
Catch Manohar Devadoss talking about his new book at the Goethe Institute, Nungambakkam on February 28 at 7 pm. To purchase the book, contact 24982484.